Monkees – I’m A Believer

This song was #1 on the Billboard 100, Canada, The UK, and New Zealand on January 15th 1967… That day since we are talking about it…the first Superbowl was played when the Packers beat the Chiefs.

I grew up with this song so it is ingrained in the back of my mind. That organ intro will stick with you. Say what you want to about the Monkees…they produced some of the great pop songs of the sixties…no matter how much  Jann Wenner (Rolling Stone Magazine) snubs them for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Every Monkees post I usually say something like that…what Wenner doesn’t get, among many things, is that the Monkees influenced a couple of generations of musicians (REM, XTC included). Like other bands of that time in California…studio musicians played on their first two albums and Wenner cannot forget that. They became a band after being cast together. They started to play on the 3rd album and continued with hits.

This was The Monkees second single, after “Last Train To Clarksville.” It was released during the first season of their TV show.

Neil Diamond wrote this song. He had his first big hit earlier in 1966 with “Cherry, Cherry,” which got the attention of Don Kirshner, who was looking for material for The Monkees. Kirshner was sold on “I’m A Believer,” and as part of the deal, allowed Diamond to record the song as well. Diamond’s version was released on his 1967 album Just For You. The Monkees version benefited from exposure on their television series.

Guitarist Michael Nesmith didn’t believe this would be a hit, complaining to the producer, Jeff Barry, “I’m a songwriter, and that’s no hit.” Jeff Barry banned him from the studio while Micky Dolenz recorded his lead vocal…Mr. Nesmith was wrong about this one.

Neil Diamond: “I was thrilled, because at heart I was still a songwriter and I wanted my songs on the charts. It was one of the songs that was going to be on my first album, but Donny Kirshner, who was their music maven, hears ‘Cherry, Cherry’ on the radio and said, ‘Wow, I want one like that for The Monkees!’ He called my producers, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich – ‘Hey, does this kid have any more?’ And they played him the things I had cut for the next album and he picked ‘I’m A Believer,’ ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’ and ‘Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow),’ and they had some huge hits. But the head of my record company freaked. He went through the roof because he felt that I had given #1 records away to another group. I couldn’t have cared less because I had to pay the rent and The Monkees were selling records and I wasn’t being paid for my records.”

From Songfacts

The Monkees sang on this, but did not play any instruments. The producers used session musicians because they were not convinced The Monkees could play like a real band. This became a huge point of contention, as the group fought to play their own songs.

Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz sang lead on this. Dolenz also handled lead vocals on “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Mary Mary” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.”

Neil Diamond had intended the song to be recorded by the Country artist Eddy Arnold, and was surprised when record executive Don Kirshner passed it instead to The Monkees.

A cover version by Smash Mouth was featured in the 2001 movie Shrek and went to #25 in the US. Diamond wrote the song “You Are My Number One” for Smash Mouth’s next album. 

The single had an advance order of 1,051,280 copies and went gold within two days of release.

British singer-songwriter and Soft Machine founding member Robert Wyatt had a #29 in the UK in 1974 with an intense cover version. His rendition featured Andy Summers (later of The Police) on guitar, and drums by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, who also produced the recording.

Wyatt told Q Magazine that he wanted to make a point with his cover. “I was very uncomfortable with having fans who said ‘Your music is so much better than all that banal pop music,'” he said. “It sounds like a socialist thing to say but pop music is the music of the people. It’s the folk music of the industrial age. If you don’t respect popular culture. You don’t respect people, in which case your political opinion is of no great value.”

Dolenz has painful memories of performing this on tour. Literally painful. He told Entertainment Weekly in 2016. “I do remember lots of snatches of touring back then. Unbelievable. No monitors. Screaming. Screaming, screaming. [When we played ‘I’m a Believer’] I couldn’t hear myself. I just had to pound away. Even to this day, I sing with my eyes closed, because I had to close my eyes and hit myself in the leg to keep time on the drums. I had a big bruise. [Laughs]”

I’m A Believer

I thought love was only true in fairy tales
Meant for someone else but not for me
Love was out to get me
That’s the way it seemed
Disappointment haunted all of my dreams

Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind
I’m in love
I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave her if I tried

I thought love was more or less a giving thing
Seems the more I gave the less I got
What’s the use in tryin’
All you get is pain?
When I needed sunshine, I got rain

Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind
I’m in love
I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave her if I tried

Oh

Oh, love was out to get me
Now, that’s the way it seemed
Disappointment haunted all of my dreams

Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind
I’m in love
I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave her if I tried

Yes, I saw her face, now I’m a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind
Said, I’m a believer, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah (I’m a believer)
Said, I’m a believer, yeah (I’m a believer)
I said, I’m a believer, yeah (I’m a believer)

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

35 thoughts on “Monkees – I’m A Believer”

  1. Love that tune! While as a hobby musician part of me cringes that The Monkees at least initially were a fake band created for TV, they had so many great songs. Plus, they of course redeemed themselves later on by learning how to play their instruments.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. They wrote some good songs also. Michael and Peter were already good musicians. They inspired me to be in a band…it wasn’t as fun as they showed lol…but fun.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I did a quick search to find out which musicians played on this song and I found it was guitarist Al Gorgoni (who played on “The Sound of Silence” and later on “Brown Eyed Girl”) had worked on Diamond’s “Cherry, Cherry” and also contributed to “I’m a Believer”. Other personnel on the record include Sal DiTroia on rhythm guitar, Neil Diamond on acoustic guitar, Russ Savakus on bass, George Butcher on piano, Stan Free on Vox Continental organ, George Devens on percussion, and Buddy Saltzman on drums.

    Like

  3. a fine song, as were many of their singles. Definitely a band which didn’t get their due respect. Even if they never played their own instruments, that would still only place them in the same category as other 60s greats like The Supremes or Four Tops, and no one makes fun of them or consider them less than significant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They were not organic and that is true but they became organic so that should count also…it’s their influence Dave that I see as a driving force. Not only with their music but their TV show touched a lot of youngsters in different decades.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. He did stop…I guess he wanted to mature…they seem to come easy to him. I forgot about A Little Bit of Me…that he wrote that one also.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Brilliant record, as The Monkees records were both before and after they gained creative control. Nesmith and Dolenz both wrote hit records, Tork wrote the TV end-credits tune and the musical snobbery of the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame is utterly hypocritical, given session musicians were used by the Best Of All Time – there are no Beatles playing on Eleanor Rigby, for example, Elvis didnt play on most of his career hits, and as mentioned already Motown was a hit-making machine, no difference whatsoever – except The Monkees DID write their own stuff, DID play on half their output. Their records continue to be anthems, put on Daydream Believer anywhere and people who have no idea about the TV show, never seen it, will be singing along.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you…it’s great to see people believe the same as me. If the Sex Pistols are in for one album…and that one album was a huge influence I admit but so were the Monkees…but yes you are right… those bands you mentioned didn’t play on their records… The Byrds except McGuinn didn’t play on their first records.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Happy Birthday Max!! I loved watching the re-runs on TBS everyday after school. The very first vinyl I ever bought was a Monkees Greatest Hits. My mom bought it for me off a commercial played during the show. I still have it. I am about to start buying all their albums on vinyl at least that is the goal. Should be pretty easy to accomplish as I see them out there all the time. Great track and letting me travel back in time a little.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m with ya John. I watched the reruns in the seventies and they are a big reason I played music all of my life. They made it look fun to be in a band. Some great pop songs also.

      Liked by 2 people

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